Thursday, June 19, 2008

Being John Manitoba

Dayton is reaffirming its vows with cool city guru Richard Florida. Dayton would do well to heed a few words from Moncton, New Brunswick:

Florida writes a whole book essentially dooming places like Atlantic Canada to economic failure and then jets in and says we need to invest in creativity and attracting gays and bohemians. Essentially, as most one trick ponies, he is trying to impose his model that he sees working in Austin, Toronto and San Francisco on little places like Saint John when his own analysis doesn't account at all for smaller urban regions that aren't part of these mega clusters.

I think we need a Richard Florida for the mid sized city. For all of the areas across the industrialized world that aren't in the magnetic pull of Toronto or Vancouver or New York.

Maybe a John Manitoba.

David Campbell, the author of the above blog post, makes the usual critique of Florida's work: Correlation doesn't mean causality. What is new is the concern about the global dynamics that result in our spiky geography. How can struggling regions and cities benefit from the concentration of talent in a small group of global cities?

While I agree with Mr. Campbell's analysis and would also welcome John Manitoba to the table of economic development, I think Mr. Florida offers a viable strategy in tying one's city to an urban center of global commerce. The existence of East Coast Connected suggests that Atlantic Canada is well within the "magnetic pull" of Toronto. That gravity model Mr. Campbell is using recalls the proximity geographies of the industrial era.

Any city has at least some connection to a world city that could be deepened. But Richard Florida falls into the same trap with his contiguous mega-regions. In fact, a more regionalized urban hinterworld would put a city at a considerable disadvantage. The global orientations of New York or London make them great.

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